By way of mitigation, might I say that I have been away from home for most of that time, (those of you who know, will know where and why). The standards of technology in ‘Boston 5′ were a little ‘grim’, the internet cable never had a prayer of reaching the coffee table, and so I had to resort to a game of ‘SoloTwister’ and stretch across the bed in my vain attempts to try and type. Then there was of course the other technical problem, which was that every time I sat down to type, I had technically had too many Crabbies to make sense !
But I am here now, and whilst I wait for my mid-workout evening snack of Quinoa with a carrot and beetroot juice chaser, and having unplugged my Slendertone ‘Ab-Master’ pro electrical impulse belt, I shall pen you a line or two.
You may have guessed that, I am back on the fitness trail again. I was doing so well before I returned to my old place of work on one of those 5-week courses that I do. Once there, the back of that ‘waggon’ was as greasy as an ‘It’s a Knockout’ slide, and I promptly fell off ! So, as I return to the ‘real world’, it’s time for another mid-life crisis, and a rapid return to healthy living.
I say ‘another’ mid-life crisis, as I think I had my first one aged around 14!
Ah… the mid-eighties, what a time. I remember all the kids in my class were juxtapositioning themselves into one of a number of musical genres that were prevalent at the time. There were, Rockers, Perry’s, New Romantics, the odd Mod, and the even rarer ‘Punk’. Essentially, as you bought your first record, you set yourself on a path to join one of these ‘trends’, and hey presto ! you had yourself some friends.
My issue was that the first record I bought was the epic ’Double A-Side’, ’Christmas In Smurfland’, and ‘Father Abrahams Holiday’, and there wasn’t really a genre for that. So there I was 14 years old and vexed, a crisis; How was I going to ‘fit in’? My fall back track was by ‘Chas n Dave’, and there was a definite shortage of ‘cockney geezers’, in Saddleworth.
I ended up dipping my toe in a few ponds, and so the following purchases included ‘Paranoid’ by Black Sabbath, an album by ‘Duran Duran’, a bizarre song by Kenny Everett in the guise of ‘Sid Snot’ and a couple of Queen albums.
There I thought I had found the answer. I ended up hooked on Freddie and the boys, something which continued well into later life. However, there was no way I was going to parade around in public wearing lycra tights, a vest top and a billowing cape,(Although anyone who attended the Xmas discos 1985-88, might challenge that statement!).
So I did what I have done ever since in such situations, namely find the person who I thought was the coolest, and copy them. So it came to pass, that I had to go out and buy a pair of grey pleated trousers, and a maroon pair, a maroon shirt, and a grey one, and you’ve guessed it, one grey and one maroon ‘inch-wide’ leather tie. Needless to say, the choice of what to wear was relatively obvious. Probably as obvious as it is to me now, that I should have picked somebody else !
The problem was confounded by the fact that rather than go somewhere ‘chic’ to purchase the items, all mine came from ‘Peter Haq’s’. Now here was a tailor of quality, or so he would have you believe. There was nothing he didn’t have in stock, in fact, if he didn’t have it in stock, he would make it out of something he did have ! Peter’s issue was that his goods were….’good value’. So where as my friend’s trousers were a blend of pure wool and cotton, mine were a blend of hessian and iron filings. Thus as my ‘pal’ strutted his stuff in the disco, batting off the attentions of many a young lady, I spent my time squirming around, scratching where it’s not polite, generally getting covered in hives, and batting off the attentions of Paul Frier ! (I don’t think he owned any records!)
The final straw in this ‘phase’ came when I tried to sport the hairstyle which accompanied the ‘look’, which involved a ‘Spandau Ballet’ style quiff. Anyone who has seen me will know that this would have been a big ask. Even now with the myriad of ‘products’ on the market, there isn’t a putty or a mud pack or whatever other bizarre name they go by, which would get my hair to deviate from the way it chooses to grow. Back then, the strongest thing on the market was ‘Cossak’ hairspray. I started the process by visiting the hairdressers, and when he had stopped laughing, he declared, and I swear these are the words he used… “I will try, but I am not using my best scissors on it,it’s like 15 amp fuse wire”.. service with a smile or what ! Suffice to say on the following Sunday evening I emptied the best part of a tin of the Russian Miracle onto my head, forced my hair into a perfect parting and wedged it against my pillow as i went to sleep.
The next morning I fashioned an impressive quiff, restored the parting, and then blasted the rest of the tin onto my head, and made for the door. A quick check in the mirror revealed a ‘Tony Hadley-esque’ barnet,(granted it was a different colour), and I strode out to the bus stop. The bus stop was only 150 yards away but by the time I got there I had the hair of ‘Chukkie’ off the rugrats, and a face like Max Headroom on account of the fact it was covered in a film of hairspray. I probably would have cried, but I couldn’t, my eyes were set solid, so I just sighed and started to hum ‘Killer Queen’ in my head.
I thought that might be it as far as mid-life crisis moments go, and indeed it was until the age of about 28.
I never really thought about having a tattoo, it had never appealed to me on account of the pain. My dad had one when he was 17, during his National Service. He rather astutely had a dagger type design, with two scrolls containing the words ‘Wife’ and ‘Kids’, which at least meant he never had to get them re-done! I don’t know why I did it but I am guessing I must have seen someone who looked ‘cool’, and I wanted to look the same.
I must be one of the people for whom catalogues were invented. I have never yet thumbed through a copy of Grattan without thinking that if I bought any one of the thousands of garments on offer , then I would become the body double of the chiseled chap displaying it. It goes without saying of course that whenever I have ordered anything, I still look like Stig of the Dump! But I digress.
So, back to the tattoo ! I pondered long and hard over what to get. I wanted something unusual, unique, something which might even provoke conversation. At the time I was passionate about all things Spanish,(still am to be fair) and at the risk of opening up a cavalcade of vitriol, I noticed that the breeders of the fighting bulls in Spain each had their own branding mark, which were unusual in their designs, and perfect for my tattoo. I did some research and sourced the designs of the top 10 breeders of that year, and was left with a list of 10 letter like symbols. I ditched the coloured backgrounds on account of cost, (and pain!), and so all that was left was to re-arrange them into some form of order, a row of 6, over a row of 4, with some tasteful bordering. I numbered each one from 1-10, and tasked my eldest to pick the two groups, and the order of the symbols. It was a guy from New Zealand who was working at a shop in Hyde that inked my arm. He remarked that he had never seen anything like it and to be fair put a lot of concentration into getting everything just right. Yes it was painful, but that pain was nothing compared to the overwhelming sense of doom when he finally switched off his needle gun, took a step back, and said, “So what exactly is ‘ABVENT BINGO’ mate?” It’s fair to say that I wanted it to be a conversation starter, and I certainly got that, the only issue being it is the same conversation every time, the first line from me generally being, “It doesn’t actually say anything!”.
Following that experience, I vowed never to succumb to a lifestyle change on a whim, or because I saw somebody I thought looked cool. Little did I know that 7 years later it would all happen again.
I embarked on what turned out to be a seven-year stint at the training centre which I now visit around once a year to deliver the infamous Q1 course. I don’t mind saying that when I started there, I was no ‘flyweight’, but 7 years of ‘Compost Corner’ meant that when I returned to work in the real world I was a smidge out of shape. I took it upon myself to try to get in shape and was doing a half decent job, although it never took me much by way of persuasion to sway from the path of righteousness. which brings me right back to where we started. The last 5 weeks could have signalled a spiral of decline back to my old state, in fact it very nearly did. Thank God then that there was a fellow trainer there who fell straight into the “I want to be like you” mould which lurks at the back of my head.
I won’t embarrass the lad publicly, he knows who he is, and I have to say he is a thoroughly agreeable bloke, as all the rest of the training team were. But none of the others could pull off a 1750m swim before breakfast ! I say before, let’s face it I couldn’t do that if you gave me a week off! Couple that with the odd 41 mile long ,(yes 41) bike ride in the evening, a sly 13 mile run,(as you do), and you can see that there was no way my mid-life crisis gene was going to stay locked away. Add onto that the fact that he could have stepped off the page of one of those catalogues (only trendier!), and I had no chance.
I tasked him at once to transform me, ready for our trip to Turkey,( I say ‘our’, none of you have said you want to come yet, and we go in 4 weeks!). First job, sunglasses. Now here is a challenge for any man. I like sunglasses, much like Mrs FD likes bags. I must have had 20 pairs in my life,some cheap copies, and some really expensive designer ones too. Yet there has never been a pair yet that, when place on my head make me look like anything other than Don Estelle in a pair of ‘Reactalite Rapides’.
So, having taken advice from Gloucestershires answer to Gok Wan, I am now the proud owner of a pair of bins which, in his words… ”are a similar shape to your face, slightly square”,(harsh words, but he knows his stuff!). In a few days time, my delivery of Superdry t-shirts, Bench jeans and Adidas Samba Classic trainers will be here, and I will be almost complete.
My new ‘style guru’, is a keen and extremely impressive ‘Iron Man /Triathlete/ Machine’, and regularly posts his training schedule, and competitions on Twitter. They make your eyes water. I have taken to posting my feeble attempts in a similar way, and have come to the conclusion that it will be a long time before I complete a triathlon, ( mainly due to the fact that I swim like a brick, and can’t ride a bike), and it will be a whole lot longer before I even approach ‘Ironman’ status. The best I can hope for is to reach the dizzy heights of ‘Bacofoil-bloke’, so for now I will keep chipping away at the frame, until I can fit into my ‘Superdry’ vest top, slip on the sunglasses, and wait by the bar until Kelly Brook walks in, looks me up and down, twice, and says in that wonderfully dusky cockney twang, “What’s abvent bingo ?”.
I would love to stay and chat some more about my failings, but I am booked in with Roxanne for a ‘back, sack and crack’ in an hour, and if I miss that it will have a knock on effect on my spray tan appointment, and I will have to put off the teeth whitening until Tuesday.
What mid-life crisis ?